Saint Louis at Duquesne (Atlantic 14)
A.J. Palumbo Center - Pittsburgh, PA
7:00 PM EST
Last year's A-14 geosuperleague standings presented a big problem, you might remember: you had teams with high noncon content like Dayton and Rhode Island finding their .500 league records were good for one-way NIT tickets. The reason why the conference is having such an improved happyfuntime in 2008-09 is because it's placed its 20-win teams (Xavier, Rhode Island and Dayton) near the top, and all its low-production squads like GW and Fordham near the bottom. Just the way the league office planned it. As an added bonus, there's a rich ore deposit of dangerous teams that occasionally make things unpleasantly painful for the league leaders. Here, tonight, are two of those.
Saint Louis (17-11, 8-6) has been a very good spoiler, most notably beating up Dayton defensively in a home-and-home series split that culminated in a 57-49 win
last week. It's a team that relies on two seniors who predate the two-year Rick Majerus era: folk hero guard Kevin Lisch
(14.0 ppg) and Tommy Liddell III
(11.9 ppg), a solid double-figure contributor during his four years at SLU. But there's a molasses-flavored irony in the Billikens' season: Majerus was brought in to replace Brad Soderberg
, a coach who preferred a slow-down style that drove away fans... and therefore wasn't conducive to a glittering new building like the $80.5 million, circa 2008 Chaifetz Arena
. Averaging 62.3 possessions per conference game, SLU is the 14th fastest team in the A-14, and ranks among the slowest 15 nationally at 62 overall. No word on how it's affecting beer sales.
The home team tonight, the Duquesne Dukes of the non-Duke dukedom, have a similar record and standing to SLU at 17-10 (8-6 A-14). They'll be trying to avenge a four-point drop at Chaifetz
in early February. The squad's major accomplishment so far this season has been a four-point win at home
against mighty Xavier, which got Aaron Jackson
(21 points) -- one of the most anonymous superstars in all of Hoops Nation -- some much-needed love. He's a four-year starter who's left over from Duquesne's horrid 3-24 campaign in 2005-06, who's having a solid senior season, leading the team with 18.3 ppg, shooting 54 percent (not bad for a 6-4 guy), and standing third in assists leaguewide with 5.7 per game. Led by Jackson's 24, the Dukes came within a basket
of beating Rhode Island over the weekend; after a second shot at Dayton to close the regular season, this is a team that should be capable of big surprises when the league gets together in Atlantic City.Basketball State Preview/Box